On Thursday, the top official responsible for countering terrorism financing at the U.S. Treasury revealed that he had expressed serious concerns to Turkish government officials. The focal point of the discussion was the fundraising activities of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Turkey, with the potential implication of violating local laws.
According to Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson, Turkey plays a significant role in Hamas fundraising schemes, and the group is likely to exploit this prominence as it seeks additional funds amid its conflict with Israel.
"We are profoundly concerned with Hamas's ability to continue to fundraise and find financial support (here in Turkey) for potential future terrorist attacks," Nelson told reporters in Istanbul between meetings with Turkish government officials and financial and business groups.
Turkey's foreign ministry was not immediately available to comment.
Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization and even welcomes some of its members, in contrast to the majority of its Western allies and several Gulf governments.
President Tayyip Erdogan has called Hamas "freedom fighters" and criticized Israel as a "terror state" over its bombardment of Gaza in recent weeks.
Following Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7, the United States, Israel's closest friend, has sanctioned several Turkish organizations and individuals to cut off funding for the terrorist group.
According to Nelson, Turkey has a connection to Hamas's previous fundraising initiatives from individuals, investment portfolios, non-profit organizations, and charities.
Even if Turkey sees Hamas as legitimate, he said the group could still violate domestic laws, though he gave no specific example of this happening.
"There is sufficient opportunity for Turkey to address this problem under its own domestic legal authorities irrespective of U.S. sanctions," he said.
Nelson claimed that officials from Turkey had informed him that although Hamas was not listed as a terrorist group in their nation, Turkey would not stand for legal violations, such as the direct financing of violent crimes and money laundering.
Washington says a Hamas portfolio of investments, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, includes companies operating in Turkey, Sudan, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere.
Nelson also brought up the possibility of imposing further U.S. sanctions on Turkish entities suspected of aiding Russia in evading sanctions. This alleged assistance involves the transit of goods, including chips, semiconductors, and other components used in Russia's conflict in Ukraine.
In the last 18-24 months, there has been a six-fold increase in the transit via Turkey of "high-priority dual-use" components to Russia, Nelson said. "Too many" Russian ships and planes were being serviced in Turkish ports and airports, he added.
"We're not getting the results that we want...in the context of (Turkey's) very sincere expressions of support for Ukraine," he said.
Turkey says sanctions will not be circumvented on its soil and that nothing transiting is used in Russia's war effort.
Ankara has insisted that Washington provide evidence to support its claims, as Turkey fundamentally opposes sanctions and maintains positive relations with both Moscow and Kyiv, despite condemning the invasion.
Turkish financial, shipping and air-transit sectors can expect Washington to remain aggressive as it uses "all of our authorities as creatively as possible to get at this challenge", Nelson said.
Image source: The American Law Institute